by Elizabeth Varville, Correspondent
According to the Southwest Transplant Alliance, every 10 minutes someone is added to transplant waiting list and 21 people die each day awaiting a transplant when registering to be an organ donor takes less than 60 seconds at DonateLifeTexas.org and there is no cost to the donor or their families. Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can sign up to be a donor. One donor can save up to eight lives and one tissue donor can enhance the lives of over 50 people. In Texas, there are 13,208 people waiting on a transplant.
Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA) is a non-profit organ and tissue donor program serving hospitals & patients throughout much of Texas. Founded in 1974, STA is one of the largest of 58 federally designated organ procurement organizations in the U.S. It is the official link between those who need an organ to survive and those who have the potential to save lives by becoming donors. STA’s employees provide the complete range of services required to effectively recover donated organs. STA provides 24-hour service to recover, preserve, and transport the selfless gifts received and available through organ donation. STA also supports donor families, as well as develop volunteer advocate relationships that inspire diverse communities to give the gift of life and sign-up on the Donate Life registry. Since their inception, they have recovered over 20,000 organs and saved or enhanced the lives of nearly 100,000 individuals.
“We distinguish ourselves by forging meaningful relationships with donor families, transplant centers and communities we serve in order to realize every possible donation and improve the ability to provide the gift of life,” said Director of Public Relations Perri duGard Owens.
This year marks the 13th year the Donate Life Texas organization is participating in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California. According to donatelifetexas.org, the Donate Life float honors millions of people touched by organ, eye and tissue donation, including living donors, donor families, transplant recipients and transplant candidates. The float teaches us all to “Treasure Life’s Journey,” which is also the theme of this year’s float. The float will feature 24 riders, who are organ and tissue recipients (or, in a few cases, are family members representing loved ones who were transplant recipients), 12 walkers, ordinary men and women who made the remarkable but increasingly widespread choice of donating a kidney to a family member or even a stranger, and 60 floragraphs, portraits made from flowers depicting deceased donors whose legacies are celebrated by their loved ones.
Among the 60 floragraphs honorees, five were from the state of Texas.
“We actually selected five honorees based on hundreds of donors’ stories that we have been touched by. We looked at specific location, access to the families and the impact of their stories in order for us to select them as this year’s honorees from STA. We used an internal review to determine which donors would be considered as honorees for the float,” said duGard Owens.
And of the five honorees from Texas was Belton’s own Christopher Jacobs. The morning of October 15, 2004, Christopher was in a horrible car accident. Christopher was in the ICU for three days before his mother came to the conclusion that he would not recover from his injuries. He was 17 years old.
As a family member of an honoree, Christopher’s mother, Nanette Pace was invited to attend the Rose Bowl Parade by STA. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, family members are busy finishing the final details of their represented floragraph.
“It is a bitter sweet kind of experience being a part of the parade. Of course it is a loss of a child. To have Christopher honored in this way is the best experience of my life. To know that millions of people watch this parade which will promote many donations and help others. At 15, when he went to get his driver’s license, he had marked that he wanted to be a donor. He was enlisted to go into the Air Force that year after graduating from Belton High School and one day become a firefighter. So he made it very clear that he wanted to help other people,” said Pace.
Christopher went on to save several lives by donating his kidneys, liver, heart valves and corneas.
For more information on the Donate Life Float please visit http://bit.ly/2016Floragraphs. For more information on registering to be a donor please visit DonateLifeTexas.org. For more information on Southwest Transplant Alliance please visit Organ.org.